This approach, however, was marred by growing costs—in the range of $40 to $50 billion, compared with $26.4 billion for Closely Spaced Basing—and by the fact that “the cost to our Western citizens in terms of water, land, social disruption, and environmental damage seemed unreasonable.”
He explained that “in reexamining how to base the missiles, we concluded that by pulling the launch sites much closer together and making them a great deal harder, we could make significant savings.”
Two factors primarily drive the MX requirement. The Soviets can destroy the US ICBM force, as configured at present, in a single attack, using less than one-fourth of their present ICBM force. Conversely, the US cannot “effectively threaten Soviet ICBMs even with a preemptive strike.”
The President’s decision in favor of Closely Spaced Basing—the basing mode recommended to him by the Air Force—was preceded, this writer learned, by an intensive review of several other options. These included the so-called “common missile,” meaning use of an essentially similar design by the Navy for its D-5 SLBM application and by the Air Force for the ICBM mission; abandonment of the strategic triad in favor of a dyad by phasing out land-based ICBMs; and commitment to CSB that from the outset would have included deceptive basing and the concurrent deployment of ballistic missile defenses.
The addition of ballistic missile defense is not expected to become necessary before the turn of the century and probably will involve a sophisticated exoatmospheric (above the atmosphere in space) approach, rather than the much less efficient low-altitude concept available now.
As the President told Congress, “We plan to continue research on ballistic missile defense technology—the kind of smart, highly accurate, hopefully nonnuclear weapons that utilize the microelectronic and other advanced technologies in which we excel. The objective of this program is stability for our ICBM forces in the ‘90s, a hedge against Soviet breakout of the ABM Treaty, and the technical competence to evaluate Soviet ABM developments. We currently have no plan to deploy any Ballistic Missile Defense system.”
As this column went to press, the House of Representatives voted 245-176 to deny production funding—$988 million—for the MX program in FY '83. In subsequent action, research and development funding for the missile's basing was "fenced," meaning that the funding was appropriated but can not be released until April 30, 1983. The Administration reportedly plans to continue to press Congress to permit eventual go-ahead on the full MX program.
The current research and development program on ballistic missile defense is pegged at about $2.5 billion.
The first three stages of the MX use solid propellant and provide the thrust needed to achieve intercontinental range. The fourth stage uses liquid propellants to carry out the maneuvers that properly deploy the RVs. Along with the liquid propellant, the fourth stage carries the computers and electronic equipment that guide and control the missile from the time of launch through the release of RVs. The MX guidance and control system uses an advanced inertial reference sphere (AIRS) that provides the flight computer with information on missile movement during flight.
Over the life of the program, some 240 missiles are to be acquired, but no more than 100 are to be deployed at a given time. The remainder are spares and test systems. The 100 active missiles will be deployed in superhard capsules at close distances (about 1,800 feet apart) that maximize the phenomenon of fratricide while still far enough apart to prevent one weapon from destroying two capsules. The major features of the CSB concept are the superhardened capsule, close spacing, and array shape. The array itself is a linear configuration, fourteen miles long and one mile wide and oriented from north to south. The superhard capsules contain the MX missiles in their canister/launcher. Hardness levels will be in the 5,000 psi (pounds per square inch of overpressure) range against ground burst and as high as 130,000 psi against enemy warheads detonated in the air above. The geotechnical conditions at the Wyoming site were deemed extremely conducive for achieving high hardness levels, mainly because of the special qualities of the sandy soil that dissipate ground shock.
The system’s two underground launch control facilities will be hardened to the same degree as the capsules and linked to the missiles by a network of fiber optics and HF (high frequency) communications, both of which are relatively resistant to the effects of EMP (electromagnetic pulse). For normal day-to-day operations the Launch Control Center provides command and control of the missiles. During and after an attack, survivable command and control would be provided by a small fleet of Airborne Launch Control Center (ALCC) aircraft and satellite relays.
The Escalating Nuclear IssueThe National Conference of Catholic Bishops—through its ad hoc Committee on War and Peace—recently issued a second draft of a Pastoral Letter in support of a “nuclear freeze” that unleashed a tidal wave of controversy. The pivotal contention of the proposed Pastoral Letter is that “not only should development and deployment of new weapons cease, the number of existing weapons must be reduced in a manner that reduces the danger of war.” The notion that the US do so unilaterally and immediately caused the Administration to strongly criticize the Bishops’ draft letter.
The White House’s National Security Advisor, Judge William P. Clark, responding to the letter on behalf of President Reagan and other members of the Administration directly concerned with the issue, expressed regret about the Bishops’ continuing “misreadings of American policies, and [that they] essentially ignore the far-reaching American proposals that are currently being negotiated with the Soviet Union on achieving steep reductions in nuclear arsenals, on reducing conventional forces, and, through a variety of verification and confidence-building measures, on further reducing the risks of war. Thus, while the Committee’s draft calls for alternative approaches to current nuclear arsenals and strategies, it does so without presenting the citizen who is concerned with issues of peace and war with any information whatsoever about the initiatives undertaken by the United States to bring the world closer to arms reductions, peace, and reconciliation.”
“In the US-Soviet negotiations on strategic arms (START), which began on June 30, 1982, we are proposing to begin with a one-third reduction in the number of warheads on the land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and a reduction in the most destabilizing systems of all, the land-based ballistic missiles, to about one-half of the current US levels. In a second phase, we propose to reduce the destructive potential of the remaining missiles to equal levels, lower than we now have, and we could include other strategic systems as well.
“In the multilateral negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR), the US and its NATO allies are proposing to the Warsaw Pact nations major initial reductions in military personnel to common ceilings and a wide range of new verification measures.
In response to the Bishops’ opposition to elements of current US deterrence policy which overall they rated as “at most … marginally justifiable,” Judge Clark offered this succinct explanation: “To deter effectively, we must make it clear to the Soviet leadership that we have the capability and will, to respond to aggression in such a manner as to deny that leadership its political and military objectives and impose on it costs which outweigh any potential gains. This requires that we have the capability to hold at risk that which the Soviet leadership itself values most highly—military and political control, military forces, both nuclear and conventional, and that critical industrial capability which sustains war. For moral, political, and military reasons, it is not our policy to target Soviet civilian populations as such. Indeed, one of the factors that has contributed to the evolution of US strategic policy is the belief that targeting cities and populations was not a just or effective way to prevent war. An understanding of this point appears to be seriously missing from the draft letter.”
In a related speech, devoted to public misinformation about US nuclear capabilities, Judge Clark posed the rhetorical question of whether the US today possesses more or less explosive power, or megatonnage, than it did twenty years ago. He suggested that most Americans would “respond that we have more. The truth is that today’s level is less than half that which existed during the Kennedy Administration. Similarly, if I were to ask whether we have more—or fewer—warheads than we had ten years ago, I am sure that most would respond that we must have more. The truth, however, is that in the course of the past decade, we have reduced the number in our arsenal by about a third.”
The Joint Chiefs are paying increasing attention to the CINCs as the “people who are going to fight our wars.” They, therefore, decided that the “first thing we need to do is to understand thoroughly what [the CINCs] plan to do with today’s forces. The CINCs themselves have come [to the Pentagon] to explain to the Chiefs their concepts … for their more serious war plans so that we as a body will then be able … to see what it is they got to carry out the jobs we have given them and what needs to be done in the way of force building and in the way of adjusting the orders we have given them for the war plans. If we told them to do things that can’t be done, we need to understand this [in order to] make the necessary adjustments. This we did. We all agree that this was one of the most useful exercises the Chiefs ever engaged in.”
“Would the change help us to go to war better? Does it give the National Command Authorities better military advice in a more timely fashion? Does it reinforce the role of the people who have to fight the war, the CINCs? Does it help the President and the Secretary of Defense with their toughest peacetime job, that is, how to build a defense budget? And does it maintain civilian control over the US military?”
He stressed that “we have no plans to go into such a war. That is not our strategy we don’t want war with the Soviet Union, nuclear war, conventional war, or any war in between. We simply want forces strong enough to make it clear to the Soviets that should they attack us, the penalty would be too great.”
ê Germany’s new Defense Minister, Manfred Woerner, predicted in a recent Washington press conference that the Soviet Union would not engage in any consequential discussions on theater nuclear forces arms accords until after his country’s national election on March 6, 1983. He termed the German vote decisive in terms of whether or not NATO would commit itself to such weapons. The government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, which has to stand for elections in March, he said, is “clearly an alliance-oriented government. This government has no tendency whatsoever toward neutralism. … The only chance to safeguard our interests is in a close alliance with the United States.”
The new German government, he suggested, is unenthusiastic about providing Patriot air defenses for US installations, but discussions on the subject are going on: “I am not excluding this possibility, but it would be difficult.”
ê The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in conjunction with Air Force Systems Command, is working on a third-generation cruise missile with intercontinental range.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news about the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag